Someday, This Will Be as Automatic as Turning off the Water When Brushing Your Teeth

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We’ve all seen or heard PSAs implore us to turn off the water when brushing our teeth. It’s an easy way to conserve water, and it’s become second nature to many of us. Other frequently heard conservation messages include using low-flow bathroom fixtures and even putting a bucket in your shower to capture shower water for watering landscaping before it heads down the drain. These measures may not have been adopted by or achieved second nature status to many, but they’re on their way.

Here’s another. Ever heard of a “Navy shower”? In the future, I think Navy showers will be as automatic and second nature as turning off the water when brushing your teeth. Don’t know what a Navy shower is? It’s an incredibly simple way to reduce water consumption in your home.

When I was a kid, my dad, a Navy veteran, taught me how to take a Navy shower to conserve water. In the Navy, ships have a limited supply of fresh water. So when Navy personnel showered, they would turn on the water to get wet and then turn the water off. Then they’d lather up, and turn the water back on to rinse.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that Navy showers were never internalized for me. They didn’t achieve second nature status, probably because they weren’t required when I was a kid. The Navy shower was more of an educational novelty rather than a true conservation tool. Water was and is still cheap.

So how much water can one save with a Navy shower? With a new 2.0 gpm EPA WaterSense-labeled showerhead, a family of 5 that showers every day and saves just 2 minutes of water per shower would save 7,300 gallons in a year. And that’s using an efficient showerhead! For a family that uses 5,000 gallons per month, a savings of 7,300 gallons in a year equates to a 12% annual savings in water usage. And because most of us like hot showers, using less hot water equates to using less energy, so your water conservation efforts double as energy conservation efforts, too.

If you have an older showerhead, you can significantly increase your water savings. Older showerheads use between 3 and 4 gpm. (If you’re in this camp, you should really think about replacing that old showerhead with a newer, more water efficient showerhead. The USEPA estimates that a WaterSense-labeled showerhead could save an aggregate of $2.2 Billion in water utility bills if every home in the U.S. used WaterSense-labeled showerheads). Using the 2 minutes of water savings and a 3.5 gpm average, that equates to 12,775 gallons in a year for a family of 5 where each person showers every day. For a 5,000 gallon per month family, that’s an annual water savings of 21%!

The day that Navy showers become second nature won’t happen overnight. The relaxing nature of a hot shower can’t be overlooked. We’re used to the soothing water from the shower course down our bodies. It feels good sensually to leave the water running during the entirety of a shower.

The last few days, however, I’ve started taking Navy showers again. And it wasn’t a big deal. I didn’t miss the constant flow of water as much as I thought I would. I plan to continue taking Navy showers and to advocate the use of Navy showers to the rest of my family. It’s just part of the constant thought process of what can I do to improve myself and my community today. Navy showers are an easy answer to that question.

To achieve Navy showers as second nature status and commonplace in the U.S., it will take a significant culture change. Customer education forms the centerpiece. Rate design by water utilities also plays a role – we need pricing signals to encourage water conservation. Once the customer base is educated and the rate designs are in place, we need to pass it down to our children so it becomes second nature to them, so they take Navy showers without a second thought. The shower culture in the U.S. will change gradually, but someday, Navy showers will be second nature to us and will be as automatic as turning off the water when brushing your teeth.

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